Dave Lull sends me a link to a post critical of the classic book Elements of Style, by Strunk and White: Omit Needless Books of Advice on Writing at God of the Machine.
It is an interesting post. I don’t have much, if any, problem with S&W. Scientists do well to follow the advice when writing up original research, because descriptions of technical concepts, methods and so on are vastly improved by brevity. In particular, the common habit among US authors of applying six or seven adjectives to a noun can be very hard to comprehend when many of the adjectives could equally well be nouns, and the whole consists of polysyllabic specialist terminology (oh, OK, then — jargon). Whether or not one agrees with the judgement "a strange mix of the anodyne, the obvious, and the risible", S&W’s advice is, I believe, of great practical use for people trying to convey complex information in the clearest way.
Poetic or creative prose is probably different; I am sure one would not want to be too slavish in following style rules under these circumstances. As a reader, I admire economy of writing style. For me, many modern "bestseller"-type books are far too long and overblown for their content. Others will have different tastes.
Some of the God in the Machine’s comments don’t travel. His joke about thanking one’s parents, God and Ann Rynd is not funny in the UK, it is correct grammar (no comma before the ‘and’). Decisions about house style on this sort of topic (comma or not before "and"?) are among the things that make working on an international journal such fun. Almost as good as how to style an author’s country when he or she is from Palestine or Taiwan without mortally offending someone — but that’s another ballpark.
Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. has also posted on this matter.